- Author: Michelle Krespi
I recently bought a new house in Fairfield. The first picture on the website that brought my attention to the house was a gnarly-looking tree at the front of the property. After a semester of Plant Identification at Solano Community College with Sandra Diehl (a 30+ year UCCE Master Gardener and a walking Encyclopedia of everything horticultural), I was puzzled by the tree I saw. I had never seen anything like it. This prompted me to explore further. After some research, I learned that this was a Weeping Blue Cedar-Cedrus atlantica ‘Glauca Pendula.' from the family Pinaceae. It is a slow-growing (less than a foot a year) evergreen that can reach up to 12' high and wide and reaches full height after ten years. It thrives in full sun, (six or more hours of direct sunlight daily). It is also resistant to drought, heat, and humidity making it a perfect choice for the Fairfield gardener. True cedars are the most widely grown conifers in Western gardens but this one with its weeping, hanging branches is a little more unusual. Frankly, it reminded me of “Cousin It” from the Adams Family television show, (I'm dating myself!). It's that hanging tendency that has made it a perfect fit in Asian-inspired gardens as well as a sculptural specimen statement in the landscape.
This tree originated in Northern Africa and has drooping vertical branches, with steel-blue "glauca" needles, with no defined central leader. With the proper support (mine has vertical support helping to train it in an upright position) it can grow up to 40' tall. Without the support, the tree will tend to cascade downwards. The evergreen conifer is low maintenance and prefers acidic conditions with loamy soil but does well in clay or sandy soil as well. It can also tolerate a more alkaline blend. An additive of peat moss or compost will help with drainage, making sure that it doesn't retain too much moisture as it hates having its wet feet! It requires deep watering the first year of its life but once it's established it is drought tolerant as well as temperature flexible. Make sure it dries out between waterings. It is a perfect candidate if you want to try your hand at espalier (branches that are trained to grow flat against a wall or trellis). It can also be trained and molded into a cone, oval or cylindrical shape. The evergreen rarely experiences pest or disease problems except for the occasional sapsucker or scale. To eliminate the sapsucker, look for rows of holes in the trunk of the tree and apply and/or spray burlap to eradicate. Here are the pictures I saw that started my exploration!